Keshav Mahraj is a world-class spinner, says teammate Vernon Philander

Keshav Mahraj is a world-class spinner, says teammate Vernon Philander

The 26-year-old picked up his third fifer of a fledgling 14-Test career last week.

Vernon Philander
Vernon Philander. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Proteas speedster Vernon Philander believes the team’s head coach Ottis Gibson has brought structure to the South African bowling unit. On Wednesday, Philander confirmed the green wicket at Newlands and his excitement about playing in front of a ‘sold out’ crowd. He also gave some insight into his new coach and showered praise on teammate Keshav Maharaj.

Having replaced Russell Domingo as the head coach of the Proteas, Gibson reshuffled his backroom staff after assuming his role. Malibongwe Maketa was appointed as the assistant coach, Neil McKenzie was replaced by Dale Benkenstein as the batting coach and Charl Langeveldt was relieved from his duties as bowling coach due to Gibson’s experience as the England bowling coach.

Speaking about what Gibson brings to the table, Philander said, “I only started to work with him from the Zimbabwe series, but I think he has a calm head on him and he knows what he wants from his bowlers,” the pacer told reporters ahead of the 1st Test. “It’s good to have simple plans and a clear vision of what is expected of us as a bowling attack.”

They both agree on the importance of Maharaj

Since the announcement of the respective squads, the focus has majorly been on the seamers but it is expected that the spinners will play a massive role once the pitch dries out. Keshav Maharaj is likely to start for the Proteas along with three seamers. The fact that Maharaj is perhaps one of the best spinners in the cricket scene today is not a known one because he’s underestimated.

The numbers, however, suggest otherwise. The 26-year-old picked up his third fifer of a fledgeling 14-Test career last week. In 2017, Maharaj scalped 48 wickets from 11 Tests – the most in a calendar year for a South African spinner. He has a total of 56 wickets from 14 games.

“Keshav is a world-class bowler and he has been bowling well with the three seamers around him,” Philander added. “He has a good record and has been performing well and I don’t see that changing.”

Right combination key for a Proteas win

Coach Gibson seems to agree and lays emphasis on the need to execute their best bowling attack with a special reference to the spinner. How India tackle Keshav may well decide who gets to keep hold of the momentum in the series but their primary concern will be a selection headache they are going to have while deciding the Playing XI.

“A full-strength England attack in England is a very good bowling attack,’ Gibson said on Tuesday. ‘This attack has [Dale] Steyn, [Morne] Morkel, [Kagiso] Rabada, [Vernon] Philander, Chris Morris and Keshav Maharaj, who is a world-class spinner, perhaps the best that the country has had for a long time. It’s a world-class bowling attack and we just have to try and come up with the right combination to go and win this Test match,” he stated.